Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing a very well known man in the game industry, Richard A. Watson. Also known as RAWA, Richard works for Cyan Worlds, the makers of the Myst series. In this interview, we were able to discuss RAWA’s background in the industry, the background of the Myst series and even the quantum physical basis for the games. This is the first chapter in a series from that interview, in which RAWA tells us a bit about himself and exactly what he does at Cyan. Be sure to check back on Game Invasion tomorrow, in order to catch the next installment!

Alan:

Hello Richard. First I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk to us, we all understand how busy you must be. If you could, please take a moment to introduce yourself and share a bit about your gaming background and also what it is you do at Cyan Worlds.

RAWA:

My name is Richard Watson, though many in the Myst communities know me
as “RAWA” or “Dr. Watson”.

My gaming background mainly goes back to around 1980. I spent as much time time and money as my parents would allow at the video arcades. When we got our first home computer (an Apple ][+) in 1982, I spent even more time playing computer games. One of the first games we got for the computer was a text adventure from Infocom (Zork II). Infocom’s text adventures instantly became my favorites. It was also at this point that I knew I wanted to make computer/video games and started teaching myself how to make simple games in my spare time.

In 1986, I saved up for a Nintendo Entertainment System. At the time, Super Mario Bros. was by far my favorite game at the local arcade, and the idea of being able to have the game at home was something that I just could not believe.

A few years later, while in college, I took a job at Nintendo of America (NOA) as a Game Play Counselor (the title given to those answering the hint phone lines). That was my “dream job”, not just for getting paid to play and learn the latest video games, but also because I was taking computer programming in college. NOA had a policy of giving job openings to in-house employees first, so I imagined it was a way to get my foot in the door there, and that I could move up into game programming once I graduated. I ended up quitting that job after about a month, mainly because of scheduling conflicts.

It worked out in the end, though. If I had stayed at Nintendo, I’d never have met Rand…

I met Rand Miller (president of Cyan) in August 1992, and was hired in September 1992. I’ve worn many hats here at Cyan over the years.

When I was first hired, my main job was helping Rand assemble Myst in HyperCard, but I also did less glamorous things like entering the data from the registration cards that people sent in for our pre-Myst products, answering some of the mail (before we had email), maintaining Cyan-related HyperCard stacks such as the stack that kept track of our time cards, etc.

After Myst, I did all of the HyperCard assembly and programming for a remake of one of our earlier products (The Manhole Masterpiece Edition).

For Riven, I was on the original design team, took on the roles of D’ni Linguist and D’ni Historian, and did nearly all of the HyperCard assembly and programming. I also began answering Cyan’s email and helped with the technical support.

Since Riven, I’ve mainly worked on the design team, kept my duties as the D’ni Linguist and D’ni Historian and answering most of the email sent to Cyan, with the occasional odd job thrown in when needed.

Alan:

It’s really a testament to the depth and detail within the Myst series that there actually is a D’ni Linguist and Historian. What kind of duties are involved in those
positions?

RAWA:

My main duty as the D’ni Linguist is to provide the D’ni translations for the games and the novels. They are mostly there to add to the sense of detail and realism that we put into our environments, but occasionally they’re also used in the puzzles in the games. In Riven, for example, the player needed to learn the basics of the D’ni numbering system so solve a few of the puzzles.

My main duty as the D’ni Historian is to keep track of what we know about D’ni history and to help research to find out more about D’ni history. Since we are designing the Myst games based on D’ni history, one of my duties is to throw up a red flag if the something in the game and something in D’ni history are in conflict. Sometimes, usually for gameplay or technological reasons, my flags are over-ruled, but we do attempt to keep the conflicts to a minimum.

Be sure to check back tomorrow, when RAWA discusses the background behind the D’ni culture in Myst and exactly how that background sometimes conflicted with the games!